Free Art for You (and how I spent my summer vacation)

I’m a grown up now, so I don’t really have a summer vacation, but let me give you a run down of the past three months: Art Festival (fun), wedding coordinating (fun), bridesmaid (really fun), vacation (hallelujah), parent’s selling my childhood home (insert curse word here), toothache–>wisdom teeth removal (more colorful language), wedding coordinating (fun). And those are just the weekends.

There’s been a lot of busy and then a lot of crappy. It’s been a bit of a mess and I’ve been a bit of a mess. There has been a lot of “I don’t knows” and even more just going with it because I don’t have any other choice. And there are many, many things I’m thankful for. Some of the summer certainly didn’t go the way I imagined. I prefer long, slow days on the lake with my family and friends. What I got was a month of discomfort nestled right in the middle of lots of social gatherings.

Just before all of these shenanigans, I wrote a post entitled Please Stop Telling Me to Hustle and I am stand more firmly on that soapbox now than I did when I wrote it. The past three months were supposed to spent working on writing and art and exploring. But they weren’t spent on those things. I watched a lot of movies and explored Instagram while staring a big pile of projects I was looking forward to doing. It’s a hard place to be when you want to be doing, but can’t especially when social media is full of subtle undertones to accomplish. But in not being able to produce or create, I was forced to be still and present in a way that I haven’t done in awhile. I even watched a whole movie from beginning to end without doing anything else which is quite the accomplishment for me.

I’m (hopefully) on the upswing, but I here are some things that made me incredibly happy as I pushed against the “hustle culture”.

  1. All things Fast and Furious or made-for-tv movies
  2. Pumpkin Mush (maybe I should call it something else): 1 can of full-fat coconut milk, 2 ripe bananas, 3 eggs, 3 tbsp honey, 1 tsp alcohol-free vanilla extract, 15 oz. pumpkin purée and, 1/2 cup almond flour, 1 tbsp nutmeg, and 1 tbsp of cinnamon. You can throw some pecans or almonds on top Bake for 30 minutes at 350.
  3. Friends who bring you ice cream
  4. This book

What helps you to slow down and resist the hustle?

Here’s a printable to encourage you. Put it on your wall, crop it to go on your home screen, or really whatever you want. There are three color options all for your personal use!

Download free printable here! (if you want to buy it here, you can)

 

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Please stop telling me to hustle.

Please stop telling me to hustle.

You mean well. I really believe you do. You want me to achieve all that I dream of and be the very best version of myself. I am grateful for that. But I think we may disagree about what “the best” is. I want to be successful. A little extra money wouldn’t hurt and I have never turned down praise from someone. And let’s be honest…I REALLY like winning, so being the best and most favored is a place I rather enjoy. Sure, I could probably be more productive. I could produce more. But is more production really what’s best for me as a human being? Sometimes I wish for more hours in the day and time management skills that make others bask at all I accomplish in one day. What is the cost of “hustling”? For every choice we make, we’ve said no to something else. More Instagram followers would be awesome, but really I want to create and write and have time to be real friends with people. More than busyness, I want roots dug deep in the ground. I want margin. Slow days where I talk to the old man picking out bananas next to me or conversations with the barista in my small town coffee shop. Most days I choose to drive 5 minutes farther on the way home from work to take the scenic route by the county airport. It may not be the most productive thing to do, but my day feels rich and full. I don’t want to spend all day hustling. I would prefer to use it living.

And if I may be frank, the “hustle culture” which saturates the internet and our American dream society just may be driving us all mad. Everywhere we turn there is a call to do more. The internet is full of “inspiring” quotes such as “good things come to those who hustle” and “busy is the new happy”. The growing, collective voice of hustle started out meaning to work hard, but now it just feels like getting my face ground in the mud. There’s a competitive connotation to hustle, right? It reminds me of sports. “Hustle,” yells the coach. Run faster. Compete harder. Be better. But I’m not really sure who we’re competing against anymore? Other people? Myself? Neither are people I want to compete against. We all need more grace and tenderness than that.

One of hustle’s side effects is busyness. The more I watch my culture, the less I think we need busy and the more I think we all need a nap and a hug. I remember telling my boss (a senior pastor) that very thing several years ago. We had a good laugh about telling a congregation of 400 people to take a Sunday afternoon nap and then invite your friends over for dinner. But doesn’t that sound like a great day? Slow, simple, full. It sounds like abundance to me. Sure, our goals and work matter. The Lord made us workers, but we aren’t workers for work’s sake. At least not when Christ is King of our lives.

I have a question for those of you who champion hustle. What guarantees do you have? You seem to believe that if one works harder and faster, then success (defined as money, fame, power, accomplishment) is certain. But are you sure hustle promises payoff? I’m not so sure it isn’t a lie. I don’t think hustling secures our desired outcome. Certainly we should work well and diligently on the things in front of us regardless of the eventual outcome. Work is good for us. But we fool ourselves into thinking that the working hard part ensures the paying off part. We would do well to remember that the process of work may be the best part.

So instead of hustling, I propose we be intentional. Not just about work, but our lives as a whole. We can work hard when it is time for work while making room for relationships, service, and rest.

Sweet Sundays

Maybe it’s that I was running late this morning or feeling a little nostalgic or that for the past few months I’ve felt on edge, like a million little fissures are slowly, yet steadily, cracking open wider and wider on my insides in a way that it terrifying, but also healthy and good for me. Regardless of the why, I ended up at the church I was raised in this morning instead of the church where I am a member (and that I love and am grateful for everyday). It’s always good to be there, but also a little nerve racking. It’s been well over a decade since I attended there regularly and as I have mentioned before when I left for school at 18, I didn’t plan on coming back to live in my hometime. So with the exception of a few trips home, I haven’t been part of this body in a long time.

As I drove the few miles to the new church building (why haven’t I visited more since I’ve been back?), I was flooded with how grateful I am for that body. They helped raise me, gave me friendships and guidance, a deep love for God’s church, and an understanding that messy is the way of life  among God’s people. So with much thankfulness I entered the large front doors and found a quick seat on a back row, because my normal is to not be noticed or in the way. But in front of me sat one of my high school friend’s mom who was quick to talk with me as if years hadn’t passed since the last time I saw her or her daughter. She introduced me to the man sitting on the row with her who I vaguely remember as the father of a girl I led a bible study for. The three of us laughed and told stories. It was warm and welcoming. Next thing I new, the parents of one of my dear high school friends were sitting next to me. Getting to sit with people who knew me when I was young was a delight and privilege. It was both surreal and comforting at the same time.

The service began with an announcement that we were celebrating the church’s 63rd anniversary. That’s a long time folks. A long time for a church to exist and love a community. It’s a lot of stories and faces and hardships and songs sung. It’s many church staff members, youth group trips, children’s programs, and mission trips. It’s so, so many offerings and church softball games and prayers and suffering together and rejoicing together. I am grateful to get to be one piece of the story that the Lord is writing with the people of that church. And even more grateful to have gotten to stand witness to how God has worked in and through this local congregation. I’ve seen the tragedy, transition and trauma and their aftermath. And I saw God heal and restore. I’ve seen the commitment to prayer and Scripture and fellowship and how the Spirit uses those things to change lives. For the love, I was literally baptized in those waters. I know the effect they have on a human soul. Their faithfulness to the everyday, ordinary means of grace and Christ’s work is a great strength and something I hope to carry with me as I continue to work, serve, and worship within the local church.

As we settled into the familiar rhythm of the worship service, I nestled into every hymn sung with pipe organ accompaniment (I hid that pipe room during a youth group game when I was 16…being an adult now I know that was a bad idea, but it turned out fine). The rich words and booming music encouraging my Sunday morning sleepy heart. Scripture was read and a sermon preached. Wisdom given and prayers prayed. A room of a couple hundred people felt like family. Community. Collective stories gathering together to dwell on God’s goodness, mercy, and love. The going back was good. Those people, those songs, those memories were a balm for my insides. Because even when the cracking is good, its nice to know that it is for a purpose and it is worthwhile.

God of grace and God of glory, On Thy people pour Thy power.
Crown Thine ancient church's story,Bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of each hour,For the facing of each hour. 

Lo! the hosts of evil 'round us, Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways.
From the fears that long have bound us,Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,For the living of these days. 

Cure Thy children's warring madness, Bend our pride to Thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom's goal,Lest we miss Thy kingdom's goal. 

Set our feet on lofty places, Gird our lives that they may be,
Armored with all Christ-like graces, In the fight to set men free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
That we fail not man nor Thee,That we fail not man nor Thee. 

Save us from weak resignation, To the evils we deplore.
Let the search for Thy salvation, Be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Serving Thee Whom we adore, Serving Thee Whom we adore.

(We sang this as our Hymn of Adoration and it’s just so appropriate)

One Year Later

It’s been just over a year since I moved back to my hometown. After leaving at 18, I never planned on coming back here long term even though I really loved this place. There were about a million reasons for my coming back last summer after being gone for over a decade and, although I was excited about coming back, there were more than a few concerns I had about coming home. The following are things that have surprised me about being back in small town life:

1. Consistently running into people who have known me my whole life.

This was my biggest concern. When I left to go to UGA, I was so excited about starting over. Getting to be me without the ties of heritage, so how was I supposed to settle back into that. As it turns out, pretty easily. The people here are kind and gracious and fun (as they have always been) and running into people who have known me since I was five is comforting and fun in a way I could never have imagined.

2. SMALL. TOWN.

Ya’ll. I like Target and good music and all things hippie. Target is 45 minutes away, the music scene is small at best (shout out to Jazz on the Alley for keeping it real), and there is nothing boho about upstate South Carolina. And you know what? It’s all fine. I spend less money. I’m more intentional about shows I want to see and someone has to bring hippie culture to this place. You’re welcome.

Saturday I was so excited to go the farmer’s market in downtown Seneca. I LOVE farmer’s markets. They are fun and you see the most interesting things. So you can imagine my confusion when the farmer’s market consisted of three tables under an awning. I was sad and mad and almost went home. But I had committed, so out I went. And it was LOVELY. I got vegetables and homemade bread and had ample time to talk to the farmers. They told stories and gave me recipes. Then I went to the music store in town for guitar strings. I was the only one in there at 9:45 on a Saturday morning, so when I asked for mandolin strings, too, the guy basically gave me a mandolin lesson. Fantastic. So, sure, we have less options, but we make up for it by entering into each other’s lives. Kindess, folks. It’s called southern charm and I’ll take it.

3. Slow Days

Time moves in a different way here. In some ways it feels faster, but the actual day moves slower in the best of ways. There is time for lunch with a friend, morning work conversations, going to the lake on a Wednesday evening. It’s restful. I think that’s why people like it here so much-less pressure, more enjoying.

4. Parking Spaces

There is always a parking space. Always.

The Bitter Turns Sweet

Sunday I got to teach two sweet 5th grade girls in Sunday School. It was delightful and lovely and scary and everything that teaching 11 year old girls should be. We looked at Exodus 16 and in studying the lesson (by the lake in a hammock mind you) I was reminded of Exodus 15. It is one of my very favorite passages and one that I relate to far more than I wish I did (oh my grumbling, quick-to-forget heart).

The Israelites have just been freed from Egypt. After seeing 10 plagues, sacrificing a lamb, walking through the parted Red Sea, Moses singing a song of praise and traveling in circles for awhile, they are tired and thirsty. Even with all the miraculous they had seen, they were worried. And they grumbled. They questioned God and His intentions. They were beginning to wonder if it was worth it, that maybe the Promised Land wasn’t really in their future and that maybe God wasn’t who He says He is. And then they saw it. Water. I imagine those in the front began to run towards it and the word began to spread to the others in the back that there was water ahead. There was relief. But as those first people began to drink, they spat out the water because it wasn’t drinkable. It was bitter. And so were the disappointed, confused Israelites. Where was God as this seeming provision was useless to satisfy their felt need? This should be an easy one, a no brainer. They needed water and food. Surely, given that life was difficult anyway (they were people with relational issues, now nomads wandering in the dessert), God would give them this one. But it wasn’t there.

I can relate to those feelings. My heart grumbles as I groan for comfort. Life has been challenging enough as it is (there are wounds and tender places and life just keeps happening), can’t God just give me this relief that “I’m certain would fix everything and sustain me forever”? And then I feel the bitter begin to creep in my heart.

But the Israelites didn’t need water nearly as much as they needed the Lord. To know Him as their Savior and Provider. To lean on and into Him as they journey through the desert. And we are the same. We need the Lord. To know him as our Savior and Provider. To lean on and into Him as we journey through our proverbial desert. So often our felt needs are an indicator of what we truly need, but our finite hearts and eyes have a really hard time seeing the difference.

The beauty of God as Savior and Provider is that He doesn’t leave us in our deserts. Because even when our hearts are unfaithful, He is faithful. He uses the bitter waters at Marah to show His people that their hearts are sinful and need to be changed. So He has Moses throw a log into the water and, suddenly with all hope and whimsy and relief, the water is sweet. This points us to another time when a tree is the tool of redemption saving our souls and making our bitter hearts of stone into sweet hearts of flesh. And it serves as a reminder that the Lord is constantly at redeeming work in both the cosmic soul saving ways and in the daily practical ways. That allows our restless, anxious hearts to be at peace. To rest in a God who loves to redeem and to have hope when the bitter begins to creep into our lives. As a child of God, we can be sure, despite all bitter things, that God will BE and provide the sweet.

In the following chapter, we see God provide a-still-grumbling Israel with manna. Daily bread. And we know that the Lord continues to provide our “daily bread” even now. For the past few months I’ve gone time and again to the following song that reminds of what Exodus 15 and 16 are about: our restless hearts and God’s loving, faithful, and sweet provision. Hope you enjoy.

What you want is wrong

Sometimes what you want is wrong.”

I was sitting in a conference not so long ago when the speaker said those words. He elaborated that even if what we want is “good”, sometimes its still wrong. It’s wrong because it isn’t what God wants for us.

I miss what the Lord is doing in and around me because I want this specific thing”

The guy sitting next to me at small group said that a few weeks ago. It was what was going through my head, too. As we discussed reasons why we don’t see the normal, everyday, beautiful ways that the Lord is at work in our lives, I realized that I, much like my friend next me who verbalized what I couldn’t, it’s really easy to miss what the Lord is doing when my focus is on one specific thing. We hold tight to certain things, beg the Lord for them, but miss the good that He is working all around us.

Israel wanted a king.

In 1 Samuel 8 we read about how Israel demanded an earthly king. Even when the Lord warned them that this king would not be good for or to them, they insisted. They wanted to be like the other nations, thus rejected the order that God had given them and God Himself.

The past few days I’ve been thinking about these things. In so many ways my want keeps me from the good things the Lord has for me. A few years ago, I wrote about want. And those things are still true. Leaning into want is good because God made us a wanting, needy people (even though I hate admitting my neediness). It’s not so much about wanting less, but about shifting our want to the right things. The problem is that I don’t lean into or even recognize my want for the Lord, I take that for granted. I lean into my want for how I believe life should look, much like the Israelites in 1 Samuel. I trade my King for a proverbial king. ALL. THE. TIME.

I’m learning a lot about this and how to live life with hands open to the Lord and grace to be myself. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of answers about how to practically help myself be sanctified in my wanting. Certainly the means of grace (Scripture, prayer, the Church, sacraments) are part of that. Prayer specifically has been helpful as of late. A few months ago a friend told me that she started praying the Lord’s Prayer in specific situations. It’s been tremendously helpful in easing my heart. To know that God is heaven with the big picture vantage point and that His name is hallowed sets the tone and attitude for my life. Then to think of the goal being His (not mine) Kingdom advancing and that that is done through His (not my) will. Truth be told anytime I start to pray this way I don’t get beyond this point.

All this to say that sometimes the things we want aren’t what the Lord wants for us. And that’s hard because sometimes we want good things. But it He is good and that, ultimately, should shape our wanting.

Toy Trucks and Lessons from Little Ones

Kids in church are fantastic. They do hilarious things and most often they are behaving the way we all really want to, but know we can’t because folks would think we are crazy. This past week there was a kid a couple of rows in front of me who was super entertaining. In fact, my row of friends couldn’t stop laughing. We had to turn away a couple of times. The poor little guy was restless and playing with a truck. He sat in his chair, stood in the chair, laid down on the row while his family was standing. Kid owned that row. It was great. And I get it, I get restless too. I’m wearing shoes that aren’t super comfortable and most likely I’m pretty cold. It can be hard to focus.

Then the kid dropped the car he was playing with and it rolled under his row and the feet of on of my friends. The kid’s mother had to ask my friend to get it for her son. She was apologetic and maybe embarrassed (although she shouldn’t have been, all was fine and good). After that, the kid was on a tight leash.  He was frustrated and tired and didn’t want to be still anymore. He just wanted his way-to be in normal clothes and running around and to be able to talk: he wanted to be free. But there was still 40 minutes of church left.

And then the most beautiful thing happened.

His mom picked him up and the kid rested his little frustrated face right on her shoulder. And there he stayed for the rest of the service. A service that was good for him. He is learning to be part of corporate worship and in order to do that, he has to be there week after week. But his mom knows that tough. Instead of scolding him, she reached down, picked him up and let him rest.

So often, I am tired, frustrated, and restless in life. I don’t want to walk through the process of sanctification. I just want to be free (whatever my not-so-good definition of that is at the moment). But the Lord knows me, sees me, and loves me enough to not give me that. He reaches down, picks me up, and lets me rest in Him as the sanctification happens.

To be honest, most of the time I am unlike the little boy sitting in front of me. He, acknowledging his neediness and dependence, rested his head on his mom. I scream and kick and through a good temper tantrum. If only I would admit my neediness and rest in my Father who knows and sees and cares. How much better would it be? So much better.

So let’s all learn from the restless kid playing with a toy truck. Let’s be still and restful as we nestle into the love and care and provision of the One who loves us.

The Weary World Rejoices

So often Christmas becomes about warm and fuzzy tradition. While the best kind of warm and fuzzies are lighted by Christmas lights, let’s not forget that there is more than tradition. It is tradition that has come to be because of the gospel and the hope that saturates this season. I love hymns and Christmas hymns are the very best, because when else do you get to say “Hark!”? Also, because, they are songs that Christians have been using to praise the Lord for a long time and they are rich and full. This year instead of just singing them because it’s Christmas, I’ve been really pondering what they mean and the music that goes with them. Here are some favorite lines (in list form, obviously):
 

1. O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears. (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)  

(really this whole song…”and drive away the shade of night and deaths dark shadows put to flight”)
 

2. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices (O Holy Night)


3. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger, in our trials He’s born to be our friend. He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger, behold your King before Him lowly bend (O Holy Night) 
(no one ever sings this part and its really, really unfortunate)


4.  He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found. (Joy to the World)

And the last thing. I love that this season we celebrate a Savior who comes to us. He draws near to a weary world. The Son of God appears to a needy and weak people ushering “a thrill of hope” in our bruised and broken hearts. There are hard things going on in and around us. We are exhausted and scared, helpless and harassed. But this season, we remember to rejoice because there is a great hope. In all of my brokenness, Jesus comes to redeem. In all the ways that sin and the curse turn my life upside down, the Savior comes to make His blessings flow by turning things right side up. And I don’t have to wait for it. There is no line to stand in and no patience to be had, because in this Jesus took the initiative. He has come. He is near. Behold your King. 



Uncertainty and Surety

(preface: I’m not actually sure I’m old enough to be writing this. On the other hand, this is probably one of those lessons that we learn deeper and deeper, so consider this part one. Also, shout out to Hal(lelujah) Wilkening for posting the Andrew Peterson song that follows. Hal (and Andrew) are both significantly wiser than I have ever thought of being)
 
     At one point in time, maybe when I was in college or so, I can remember thinking that as I grew up life would get easier. Maybe not easier, but more efficient. Life lessons would turn into collective wisdom and I would be able to better navigate life. I, like the adults I was watching, would become more and more capable. And it would be awesome.
     That’s not real.
     I think I peaked around 22. That’s when I felt the most sure about everything.When I left school I was nervous and anxious, but for the most part, I felt capable. Ready to take on the world.     Bah.

     Fast forward a few years and a lot of lives lived and this is what I know: pretty much nothing. I’m less sure of almost everything than I was at 22. And maybe I’m finally in on the secret to adulthood-we’re all just doing our best. Our best to not destroy everything we touch. Our best to love those around us. Our best to live well. That takes a lot of prayer, intention and a large measure of grace. Life isn’t a science, folks. It’s an art.     And I have grown. There is collective wisdom that has accumulated. I am better equipped to handle things because of how the Lord has been at work in my life, but it doesn’t always make things easier. The battles around me and inside me are still very real and very complicated. I wasn’t quite prepared for life to feel like a hamster wheel sometimes. At my age I don’t feel like I should keep waiting for the real grownups to appear and make everything better, but I do. Then I realize that I am one of the real grownups and people expect me to be able to straighten things out.

     There is an exception to this growing uncertainty I feel. Jesus. I am more and more sure of Him than I have ever been. He is my Surety. All the “collective wisdom” I have is this: Christ is King. And He loves His people. The Lord is at work and because He is moving, I can breathe. And live. He moves towards all of my fear and uncertainty. Never once has He left me in my anxiety or waiting. He has, ever so patiently, taught truth to my heart.     So even in my uncertainty-in my not knowing-there is One who knows. Even better, the One who knows, loves his children and so even when I don’t know, I trust. There is so much hope in being able to trust. So much freedom. Hallelujah.

 

 

Let’s all wear Flannel!

Remember when Katy Perry’s California Girls came out? Me too. That was a time. Driving back from the beach one evening, some sweet friends and I rewrote it to be Presbyterian girls, because we’re really funny (and cute). To my recollection it went something like this:

Presbyterian girls, we’re unforgettable.
Rainbow shoes and v-necks on top.
Sunkissed tans, so hot in our one pieces
Oh oh oh oh
 
     I’ll spare  you the rest, but we were pretty pleased with our rewrite. You’re welcome Katy.
     Why do I bring this up other than we all need a laugh after the last 4 serious posts? Because there are some distinct boundaries in how denominations dress. Seriously. It takes about .3 nanoseconds to figure out what kind of church a Christian woman goes to. And that’s not to say that any of the denominations are better dressers than another, but different for sure. Here are my observations (and, ya’ll, this is meant to be funny, so just take a deep breath and laugh a little*).
1. Presbyterian Girls (my own kind)-are we southern, are we indie mountain folk? That’s the question. We wear pearls with our flannel and chacos with our skirts. Messy buns are our hair style of choice. But seriously. We put ourselves together well, but we’re laid back and easy going. I like to think we’re simple in our elegance. We can’t be overly done because at any point we may have to defend Calvin or Luther and you just can’t do that well when hindered by a puffy vest. Trust me. Also, our hair isn’t going to be perfectly styled everyday, because grace says that I don’t have to turn my straightening iron on every day of my life. Hallelujah! Wispies are beautiful.
2. Non Denominational Girls-also laid back, but always pulled together. They think in outfits and have conquered the basics adorned with unique pieces look. And my hat goes off to them. They will wear a puffy vest over a basic striped long-sleeved shirt and it will look fantastically effortless. Where Presby girls love a crossbody bag, non-denom girls love a good graphic tote. They can fit more journals in there than other bags. Their hair is on point. Not overly done, but they put effort into it. It’s probably straight and pinned back on one side with fantastic volume. And it will hold up all day. #endurance
3. Baptist Girls
    See above, but bigger hair and earrings.
You’re welcome internet. You’re welcome.

*Also, this may or may not be based on random not so thought through thoughts. Welcome to my brain! Enjoy!

Pretty Fall Flower on my desk

 

Those Dixon kids keeping it classy